All mine, these thirty, dirty acres
The rusting plough that turned the sod
but never turned a profit,
Stands by the second gate
Horseless, masterless, brambled and broken.
(We hung that gate when I was fourteen,
My father and me and Ben Allcock (and Pip, of course).
My father, hot in the sun, sweating
Ben, fists splintered raw, laughing
And me, with a big length of blue twine, helping.)
The old sod's turning in his grave
As I sign the deeds and return his land
To the country which he carved it from
And all the cloven footed beasts–
our cows, and Ben's sheep, and Mr Jackson's old nanny goat–
Are set alight in the dale.
(Pip and I drove the six young heifers back from market that spring
And put them in the new pasture, behind the second gate.
Dad, back bent from thirty vain years behind the plough
Retired on half a dozen head of cattle
On a farm next door to the worst case of foot and mouth in the country.)
The smoke chokes me now as I turn
From the flag-floored, slate-tiled house.
I cannot call it home or happiness any longer.
All around, falsely fertile green and dusty grey,
The fells are silent, and night falls on my father's farm.
(I am still not sure which is worse;
Six wasted cattle, staggering, frothing, dying
Or my own father, despondent, insolvent
Marching to the top field with Pip nose to heel
And his shotgun under his arm.)